33. THE STORYTELLER, BY JODI PICOULT
Recommended to me by the amazing Abby, whom I hold very dear to my heart <3 It was a while ago, but I finally got around to it.
Synopsis: Sage, has been in a car accident that killed her mother and left her scarred. Believing it to be her fault, she shuns the company of others and has a relationship with a married man as a form of self-punishment. She meets a charming old man during grief counseling, and gradually lets him into her life. One day, she asks her to help him die, and tries to convince her to do it by confessing to being a former Nazi.
Overall enjoyment: I... did not like it (sorry, Abby). It was too shallow (or maybe that's not the best word, but it's the only one I can think of right now). It has three different stories in it: Sage's, Minka's (who tells of surviving a concentration camp), and Ania's, in the book that Minka writes (a few, very strange, Twilight-like insertions in between the other chapters). Right in the beginning of Minka's account, her friend Darija reads a few chapters of her book and tells her it's just a love story, boring, and it needs more suffering in it. I can't help but feel this is what happened in this book: she wanted to tell the love story between Sage and Leo, and then threw in Holocaust stuff when she realized it needed more suffering.
Plot: It was very feeble. I didn't like the love story or the moral dilemma and how it was treated. The 150 or so pages with Minka's account have the feel of mimicry of hundreds of other books, filled with gory details for shock value. It cools down the already uninteresting narrative, and made me feel emotionally detached both from Sage's and Minka's stories. Also, maybe I just pay attention to that kind of thing more than other people, but I could see the plot twist coming a mile away.
Characters: Honestly, the only ones I liked were Minka and Darija. Mary, too, but she almost doesn't appear. Sage doesn't do anything for herself, she's always dragged along by someone else (she doesn't even offer much resistance when someone tries to drag her). Leo is an insufferable snobbish mama's boy, who despised the younger generation, dismisses people for not having formal education, and who actually says his "biggest surprise" once he got divorced was that if he took off his clothes and left them crumpled on the floor they wouldn't magically be hanging in his closet the next day (imagine how much he appreciated his wife). You're not supposed to like Josef, of course, but she does a very bad job at characterizing him. She starts telling his story and abandons it halfway. It's like she started writing it, then got the idea for a big plot twist and couldn't be bothered to rewrite the first part.
World/setting: Doesn't really matter much for Sage's story. She had does a good job of portraying Auschwitz for Minka's, but I have a few reservations on that. I was curious when, at the beginning of the book, she mentioned Japanese funeral rituals, since I'm part Japanese, have been to many Buddhist funerals and had never heard of picking bone fragments with chopsticks. Once I Googled it, I realized the details she mentions in her book were copied almost verbatim from the Wikipedia page. I also checked "Holocaust" and "Auschwitz", and most of the historical details and data on this book were also copied, almost word for word, from there. That's just lazy.
Writing style: Pleasant enough. Could have done without all the preaching disguised as dialogue, though.
Representation: Mostly Jewish characters.
Political correctness: First of all, she uses the Holocaust as a goad in this book. It was completely unnecessary, and it feels like she only added it so that the book would be more literary and polemic. That is a really shitty thing to do. Then you have these awful characters and a twisted love story, with a girl who thinks she's hideous because of her scar but is actually beautiful (barf) in a relationship with a married man who gets "rescued" from her dismal situation by a quasi-brony who appreciates her for who she really is (barf again). Then there's Josef's story, the twist, the dilemma... There's so much wrong in this book, I don't even have the energy to list it all.
As a final comment, I would just like to say: Abby, dear, if you're reading this, please do not be offended by it. It is, of course, only my opinion. I have many, and I tend to be a bit forceful about them. You are not, it any way, obligated to agree with me, and I would never think less of you because of this disagreement.
This also goes for all my reviews and all the people (if any) who read them.
Up next: Playing It Close, by Kat Latham